Chicago’s public school students need individual attention from their teachers, which is impossible with as many as 48 students in a kindergarten class.
CHICAGO, May 8, 2019—Chicago Public Schools has the highest class sizes across grades 1-4 of any school district in the entire Chicago metropolitan area, according to Illinois State Board of Education Report Card data. A recent study by citywide parent group Parents 4 Teachers (P4T) documents what parents, teachers and students are seeing in classrooms across the city, that exploding class sizes—some in excess of 40 students—that make teaching and learning difficult, especially for Chicago’s youngest children.
P4T analyzed CPS enrollment data and found that more than 1,000 elementary school classrooms are in excess of contractually agreed upon class size limits. Under the Chicago Teachers Union’s current contract with CPS, the district agreed to voluntary limits of no more than 28 students in kindergarten through second grade, and no more than 31 students in third through eighth grade. But P4T found elementary school classrooms with more than 40 students—including a kindergarten class in Englewood with 42 students.
“When the mayor took control of our schools in 1995, he also took our right to to bargain over class size in negotiations,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “And for more than 20 years, that control has allowed CPS to chronically overcrowd classrooms, particularly on the city’s South and West Sides.”
“That’s why an elected school board is so important, because we need board members who will put our students’ needs first,” Sharkey added. “We’ve won enforceable class size language in our new charter school contracts, and we’re fighting for the same rights in district-run schools.”
Class size is ballooning across the district in the wake of school closings, student-based budgeting and other disastrous policies. In many other Illinois school districts, class size is capped in the educators’ collective bargaining agreement, and teachers can file a grievance when classes exceed the guidelines. In the Union’s contract with CPS, however, class size guidelines are unenforceable. Illinois remains one of just 14 states without class size limits.
The Chicago Teachers Union bargaining team is demanding 20 students in a classroom instead of 28 students for kindergarten; 24 students instead of 28 students at the primary level; 28 students instead of 31 students at intermediate and upper levels; 28 students for high school, but 25 for bilingual education classes; paying teachers with classes above the class size limits $5 per student daily for every student above the limit; and assigning a teachers’ assistant to all kindergarten through third grade classrooms with more than 24 students.
This week is Teacher Appreciation Week across the country, but real appreciation comes with a fair contract, and a focus on key issues that include responsible class sizes, fair pay and respect for women’s work, adequate staffing, and justice for our school communities. Both parents and educators agree that enforceable and strict class size limits need to be written into the next teachers’ contract with the Board of Education, and legislation needs to be passed in Springfield allowing the Union the right to strike if necessary to guarantee that students receive the personal attention they deserve.